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DAWSON, Robert K.

Copies of Instructions Given by the Secretary of State for the Home Department with Reference to Parliamentary Representation [with] Reports on the Proposed Divisions of the Counties Mentioned in Schedule (F.) of the Reform Bill (England) [with] Returns Relative to the 120 Smallest Boroughs at Present Returning Members to Parliament

London, 27 March 1832
Folio, 8 volumes (355 x 225 mm. each), uncut, blue paper boards, each with printed title on upper board, most spines weak or perished. Each with printed title page, pp. iv, (2), 128; (4), 128-244; (4), 130; (4), 131-236; (4), 94; (4), 95-216; (4), 86; (4), 87-210, with 279 lithographic maps comprising all the English and Welsh counties, the Isle of Wight and all of the boroughs ordered by county, all in early outline colour, each accompanied by text leaves, Banbury with tear. The ‘Reports on Proposed Divisions’ pp. 60, uncut, with 25 county maps in early outline colour. The ‘Returns Relative’ pp. (6), 264, uncut with 71 town plans all in early outline colour. Otherwise in good condition.
This work is the official one produced in connection with the Representation of the People Act, otherwise known as the Reform Act, of 1832. There are several titles for which these maps were used reflecting the development of the proposals to re-arrange the parliamentary representation in England and Wales.

Robert Kearsley Dawson (1798-1861) was born in Dover, the son of Robert Dawson (1771-1860) who worked on the Ordnance Survey of Kent. He entered the Royal Engineers in 1818 and assisted Thomas Colby on the triangulation of Scotland and Ireland. He was recalled in 1831 and ‘appointed commissioner under the Reform Bill to settle and map the boundaries of parliamentary boroughs’ (ODNB). His maps drawn to the scale of one and two inches to the mile often pre-date the Ordnance Survey’s, particularly in the north of the country.

This was the first major attempt to equalise the representation of the population across the United Kingdom in the Houses of Parliament. The Parliament website (www.parliament.uk) details the reforms:

1 – Disenfranchised 56 boroughs in England and Wales and reduced another 31 to only one MP
2 – Created 67 new constituencies
3 – Broadened the franchise’s property qualification in the counties, to include small landowners, tenant farmers, and shopkeepers
4 – Created a uniform franchise in the boroughs, giving the vote to all householders who paid a yearly rental of £10 or more and some lodgers

One other notable change brought about was the ‘formal exclusion of women from voting … as a voter was defined in the Act as a male person’ (www.parliament.uk).

The Act ‘was the best-mapped legislation of the century with each proposed change and the final reforms fully illustrated’ (Smith). This series has a complicated bibliographical history. Chubb records only one title being in two volumes. This is in eight volumes and includes two maps not called for in Chubb, plans of Llandaff and St. Davids, both in Wales. English counties are followed by those in Wales. Following each county map which is quite simple in detail are magnificent detailed plans of the parliamentary boroughs. Each one is accompanied by a brief description of the borough followed by a summary of the area’s limits, population, number of houses, amount of assessed taxes and number of electors. It was first published on 20 January 1832 and republished here on 27 March 1832.

This set is accompanied by ‘Reports on the Proposed Divisions of the Counties Mentioned in Schedule (F.) of the Reform Bill (England)’ dated similarly 27 March 1832. It includes 25 of the county maps printed in the eight-part work, likely in different states. The ‘Returns Relative to the 120 Smallest Boroughs at Present Returning Members to Parliament’ is published slightly earlier on 10 February 1832 containing a further 71 lithographic plates, some of which are repeated in the larger work.

Provenance: New College Oxford, de-accession stamp on first blank endpaper, with bookplate. Carroll (1996) 96.iii; Chubb (1927) 439; Hodson, Yolande (1991) ‘Robert Dawson’, in the ‘Map Collector’ 54 pp. 28-30; Kingsley (1982) 99; ODNB; Smith (1985) p. 39; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).
Stock number: 9946

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